This old photo from 1872 shows a small group of cottages, known to have been somewhere in Stalbridge. But no one could find them, and therefore assumed they had been demolished at some point. The only clue to their existence was hand-bleached onto the photo, and read "Roebuck Cottages, Stalbridge 1872".
A local Stalbridge resident, researching old photos of houses in the town happened to be looking online at the old Ordinance Survey maps of the National Library of Scotland and stumbled upon the whereabouts of these buildings. The map shown below is from 1886, and clearly shows Roebuck Cottages, set back from the road at the top of Barrow Hill.
Sadly, the cottages no longer exist, but when were they demolished and why?
Further research led to another OS map of Stalbridge, this time from 1900. As you can see from the photo below, Roebuck Cottages has disappeared from the map. Evidently some time between 1886 and 1900 the cottages were torn down.
The land on which Roebuck Cottages stood seems to be part of Inwood Estate, currently owned by the de Pelet family. However, the estate was in different hands, back in the late 19th century.
The Inwood estate was probably carved out of ancient woodlands belonging to Henstridge Manor and Yenston priory. It contained a Hunting Lodge, not the large Victorian House that exists today. In the period this story is interested in (1872 to 1900) Inwood was owned by two different people. In 1876, 4 years after our photo was taken, the then owner, John James Glossop sold the land to Thomas Merthyr Guest. In the 1881 census, Thomas Guest and his wife Theodora, who later built the Templecombe Cottage Hospital, were not living at Inwood, but in another Manor House in Henstridge. The new house at Inwood seems to have been completed in that year, but after the census had been taken. So did Thomas Guest "acquire" the cottages on his boundary and have them raised to the ground? Did he even own that piece of land when the cottages were demolished? Perhaps we will never know. As you can see from the photo below, the old garden walls of Roebuck, which bulged out into the lane are now incorporated into the estate. Inwood was inherited by the Count de Pelet in 1993.
There is another possible reason for the demise of Roebuck Cottages...
In a chance conversation with local Stalbridge author Hilary Townsend it was established that there used to be a local dance/procession in Victorian times called "The RIng to Roebuck", which seemed to involve revellers starting at The Ring in Stalbridge and dancing up to Roebuck Cottages, stopping off at cider houses along the way. It is therefore possible that at least one of the cottages was a local drinking establishment. In the late 19th Century the Temperance movement in England was thriving, and had become very active in this area. Landowners who supported this movement in its various guises, including the Salvation Army, were in the habit of shutting down pubs, ale and cider houses on their land. It is therefore conceivable that Roebuck Cottages were demolished under these circumstances, possibly by Thomas Guest, who may have been a supporter of temperance, or by another landowner for different reasons.
So why are we telling you all this? Well, the Stalbridge History Society have produced and online archive containing old photos of Stalbridge. They are 'captioned' with basic information, but the society would very much welcome further, interesting information on the collection to update the archive. Roebuck Cottages is an example. So why not visit the Stalbridge History Society Collection of Old photos of Stalbridge, view the fascinating collection of 12 galleries and who knows? Maybe you can help with another mystery? Look for photo S43 in the "street scenes" gallery, for a start!